Cartoonists Rights Network International: Respect free speech

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) is a free speech and human rights NGO protecting and monitoring editorial cartoonists around the world who find themselves in trouble because of their influential cartoons.

For the last 10 years the government of Malaysia has been seeking to silence one of the more popular political cartoonists in Kuala Lumpur: Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as “Zunar”.

In the past two years he has been arrested and detained, his office has been raided, his cartoons books have been seized, and his publishers and editors have been prevented from publishing his cartoons. Zunar recently took the government to court appealing last year’s decision to ban his books.

On 14 July 2011, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur decided to uphold last year’s banning of his political cartoon books and dismissed his appeal.

“Perak Darul Kartun” and “1 Funny Malaysia”, which featured more than 150 individual cartoons, were initially banned by the Malaysian government in June of 2010 under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984.

Without elaborating, the judge held, “their contents are not suitable and are detrimental to public order”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

These two books focus the public’s attention on important political and social issues such as conspiracies against the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and submarine scandal.

Cartoonists Rights Network International deplores the decision of High Court Judge Rohana Yusof who agreed with the government’s argument that the cartoons would lead to public disorder.

As influential as Zunar’s work is in shaping Malaysian pubic opinion, there is no evidence that the cartoons would lead to public disorder.

In so ruling, the court has furthermore ignored freedom of expression rights as provided by the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

CRNI has reviewed the banned cartoon books “Perak Darul Kartun”  and “1 Funny Malaysia” and found that all the cartoons in these books are in keeping with excepted international standards of political cartooning. CRNI is deeply concerned that by this decision the court gives a license to government to act more harshly in suppressing both political cartoonists and investigative journalists.

In the long run suppression of speech is a much graver threat to public order than one cartoonist’s well-informed opinions.

CRNI urges the Malaysian government and the Malaysian Court to respect the rights of free speech for all Malaysian citizens and reverse its July 14 decision.

By Dr Robert Russell, Director of CRNI

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) is a free speech and
human rights NGO protecting and monitoring editorial cartoonists
around the world who find themselves in trouble because of their
influential cartoons.

For the last 10 years the government of Malaysia has been seeking
to silence one of the more popular political cartoonists in Kuala
Lumpur: Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as “Zunar”. In
the past two years he has been arrested and detained, his office
has been raided, his cartoons books have been seized, and his
publishers and editors have been prevented from publishing his
cartoons. Zunar recently took the government to court appealing last
year’s decision to ban his books

On 14 July 2011, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur decided to uphold
last year’s banning of his political cartoon books and dismissed his
appeal.

"Perak Darul Kartun" and "1 Funny Malaysia", which featured more
than 150 individual cartoons, were initially banned by the Malaysian
government in June of 2010 under Section 7 of the Printing Presses
and Publications Act of 1984. Without elaborating, the judge
held, "their contents are not suitable and are detrimental to public
order". Nothing could be further from the truth. These two books
focus the public's attention on important political and social issues
such as conspiracies against the former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar
Ibrahim and the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu and
submarine scandal.

Cartoonists Rights Network International deplores the decision of
High Court Judge Rohana Yusof who agreed with the government’s
argument that the cartoons would lead to public disorder. As
influential as Zunar’s work is in shaping Malaysian pubic opinion,
there is no evidence that the cartoons would lead to public disorder.
In so ruling, the court has furthermore ignored freedom of expression
rights as provided by the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

CRNI has reviewed the banned cartoon books "Perak Darul Kartun"

and "1 Funny Malaysia" and found that all the cartoons in these
books are in keeping with excepted international standards of political
cartooning. CRNI is deeply concerned that by this decision the court
gives a license to government to act more harshly in suppressing
both political cartoonists and investigative journalists. In the long run
suppression of speech is a much graver threat to public order than
one cartoonist’s well-informed opinions.

CRNI urges the Malaysian government and the Malaysian Court
to respect the rights of free speech for all Malaysian citizens and
reverse its July 14 decision.

Dr Robert Russell
Director
20th July 2011